December 10, 2005
Looks like the medical community is beginning to grasp what most of us have known all along—that the hatemongers of the Christian right are actually insane:
Mental health practitioners say they regularly confront extreme forms of racism, homophobia and other prejudice in the course of therapy, and that some patients are disabled by these beliefs. As doctors increasingly weigh the effects of race and culture on mental illness, some are asking whether pathological bias ought to be an official psychiatric diagnosis.
Advocates have circulated draft guidelines and have begun to conduct systematic studies. […] The proposed guidelines that California psychologist Edward Dunbar created describe people whose daily functioning is paralyzed by persistent fears and worries about other groups. […] Dunbar and others say patients with disabling levels of prejudice should be treated for the same reason as are patients with any other disorder: They would feel, live and function better.
“They are delusional,” said Alvin F. Poussaint, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who has long advocated such a diagnosis. “They imagine people are going to do all kinds of bad things and hurt them, and feel they have to do something to protect themselves.”
“When they reach that stage, they are very impaired,” he said. “They can’t work and function; they can’t hold a job. They would benefit from treatment of some type, particularly medication.”
… “We treat racism and homophobia as delusional disorders,” said Shama Chaiken, who later became a divisional chief psychologist for the California Department of Corrections, at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. “Treatment with antipsychotics does work to reduce these prejudices.”
A recent study by Robb Willer of Cornell University identified some other symptoms of homophobia to watch out for at your local megachurch:
“[M]en who are insecure about their masculinity will behave in an extremely masculine way as compensation. […] They displayed more homophobic attitudes, tended to support the Iraq War more and would be more willing to purchase an SUV over another type of vehicle.”
“Masculinity-threatened men also reported feeling more ashamed, guilty, upset and hostile than did masculinity-confirmed men,” states Willer’s report, “Overdoing Gender: Testing the Masculine Overcompensation Thesis.”
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